Antarctica Turning Green as Warm Temperatures Increase Moss Growth

Janie Parker
May 20, 2017

The research also suggests that Antarctica could be a green peninsula in the future if climate change continues.

"The results of that analysis lead us to believe there will be a future "greening" of the Antarctic and a further increase in moss growth rates".

These samples were taken at three distant sites totaling approximately 640 km in the Antarctic Peninsula on the Elephant, Ardley and Green islands, where the layers of foam are the thickest and oldest.

"The general public has generally heard about the Arctic warming rapidly, and so if somebody asks themselves why Antarctic has not yet warmed so much, this actually gives the explanation", Salzmann said. "The temperature has been rising since the middle of last century in Antarctica, which has a major effect on the growth of moss in the region", said Matt Amesbury, a researcher at Exeter's UK University.

Study leader Dr Matthew Amesbury said direct climate records for the Antarctic Peninsula only went back around 50 years, whereas the moss cores provided a record that went back several thousand years. The effect, the study found, was a four- to fivefold increase in the amount of moss growth in the most recent part of the record. "We could see the Antarctic becoming more and more green as has already been observed in the Arctic", he said.

Researchers don't expect the growth of moss and other plant life to slow down. That high land surface area could be why the melting in Antarctica is less dramatic, a separate study published yesterday in the journal Earth System Dynamics found.

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Antarctica is no longer a pristine white landscape.

Taken together, the team say the results show that moss banks across the region are responding to warming, adding that variations in the measure of favourability for photosynthesis between sites is likely down to local differences in moisture levels. Their goal is to explore the impact of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems before humans began heating things up.

Thanks to global warming, the remote continent of Antarctica is turning greener by the day.

The scientists say their data shows soils and plants will change dramatically even with only limited further warming.

"Atmospheric CO2 levels have already risen to a level which the planet has not seen since the Pliocene, i.e. more than three million years old when Antarctic ice sheets were smaller and sea level was higher", - said the specialist in study of the ice Rob Deconto from the University of MA.

"The likelihood of this happening is very much an uncertainty, but remains a very real possibility, which is understandably concerning", said Thomas Roland, a co-author of the study also from the University of Exeter.

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